The arrival of cannabis in New Caledonia

Cannabis arrived only a few decades ago on this French Pacific island, some tribal elders talk about 1950 (World War II) with the presence of Americans. Others evoke the 60’s and 70’s with the Hippie / Woodstock period; There are many legends about it and some even speak of several hundred years, something that could never have been verified or justified; even with geological excavations, nothing supports it. We will therefore remain on the most reasonable and plausible possibilities.

Mexican sativa strains were the first to really develop in New Caledonia. For several decades, they adapted to the terroir and the climate, quickly cultivated  by the Melanesian tribe, in different parts of the island, both in the mountains, in the valleys, as well as in the plains of red earth (rich in nickel) or even on islands and sandy islets, cannabis has had no trouble to proliferate. A tropical climate, without harsh winters, accompanied by consistent and soft rains, allowed the sativa genetics to take the reins on this region of the world. Even if these Mexican strains have been able to adapt and evolve for several decades, we will not talk about landrace for these genetics.

The old Melanesians interviewed revealed that they quickly adopted this plant which for them, represented a source of medication, a relaxing, attractive plant, fragrant and vigorous. The financial aspect remained unknown for a very long time. This plant was cultivated by passion and respect for nature. With a vision, that if the earth brought this plant, it was because there was a reason.

The psychoactive effect has never been perceived as provoking violence by the Kanak people (native Melanesian people of New Caledonia), unlike alcohol. But the French state has of course ranked the plant at the same level as hard drugs during periods of prohibition. The combination of cannabis and alcohol is obviously not recommended and the effects are indeed harmful to the social behavior of a human, both tribal and urban, causing violence and sometimes fatal accidents.

For more than 20 years, the pollination and the selection of the best strains have been perpetuated by the Kanak people, who depend in part on market gardening to live. They have a close relationship with the land and nature, which is very precious and ancestral. They applied principles of selection of the best strains of cannabis, as with other plants and cultivated plants.

In 1990 Grande Terre (southern and northern provinces), as well as the islands, were filled mainly with Sativa with many phenotypes specific to their region of culture. Genetics adapted to the different soils of New Caledonia, a true unique territorial typology, all particular and different, in terms of effect and terpenes. Many passionate people coming from elsewhere did not return from this cannabis diversity, as well as the “roots” culture accompanying it.

New Caledonia – Ile Loyaute

La Belle Epoque  (The good times)

Many people talk about the “golden age” by referring to a period from the 80s to the year 2000, because cannabis was not yet seen as a source of profit, but more as a means of sharing. It was not only the Kanak people who cultivated it of course, but having the most land and having very little visit from the French authorities in tribal land, it is with this people that cannabis has experienced a strong geographical and genetic development  consisting of more than 20 consecutive years of undisturbed natural development.

Some strains reach exuberant sizes, taking more than 5 months of growth and 6 months to finish their flowering, resulting in big yielding plants. Historical photos prove it, and several family stories tell us about plants sometimes reaching 5 meters in height and circumference.

It was common for an inhabitant of one of the islands around New Caledonia  to go to the tribal or rural areas and to obtain relatively high quantities (between 50 and 400 grams), sometimes free of charge or by exchanging basic necessities: clothing, sugar, coffee, tobacco, tools, always on the basis of a respectful barter. Having no vision of prices in cosmopolitan circles in the rest of the world, why consider a plant that does not need any treatment to be consumed as a profitable source of income? Furthermore these exchanges we appreciated by both parties.

Very few new genetic products were introduced in New Caledonia before the 2000s. There was later the introduction of so-called “modified” strains, especially strains of Skunk, which will be very popular, because in a world where Sativa dominates, a short, fast and compact plant with a much stronger and tangy smell, did not go unnoticed by these people as well as all consumers. The term Skunk or “Skank” will be used for a long time to qualify a higher quality cannabis. Even if it had no real direct relationship with the famous genetics of the time.

A change of vision

After the 2000s, a real change became noticeable: the marketing of the plant and the term “business” were quickly associated with cannabis, which for a long time had kept its mystical pride. With population growth in the main cities, the need for cannabis use in urban areas and in all social strata has also increased; and some people seized this opportunity to visit several times a month the tribes, buy or exchange cannabis and return to the capital to cash it, amassing considerable sums.

There were many different phenotypes of cannabis. The regions of cultivation were often synonymous with quality for their know-how and their particular genetics. In addition, the culture of Jamaican reggae favoured the image of cannabis at that time. Rastafarianism, which had conquered the heart and cultures of Kanak and also the French, allowed to relax the spirits and manners. It was common to leave the door open, flights were rare during this time. It was a real little paradise.

Some places were recognized as places where it was easy to get grass in the city center and its suburbs. During this time it was enough to rub the stone of a lighter to signal that you were looking for grass and someone came to meet you very quickly.

During this beautiful time it was possible to meet strangers along the road, make friends instantly and visit big plantations in broad daylight. Those who lived during this time will tell you about fields as far as the eye can see, culture of sharing, respect for the land. Racism disappeared. It was normal for a plant to be shared, and most often in the wild, making the experience unique, which conquered many hearts and minds.

During these years, the arrival of new European genetics, such as White Widow, Amnesia Haze, Purple Haze, will also be of interest because these genetics will be perfect with local strains, offering adapted phenotypes with tremendous yields. With a rich soil, a bright sun 300 days a year, scattered rains (no monsoon period) and temperatures between 18 and 38 degrees, cannabis asks nothing more than to express the maximum of its potential in this part of the world.

The appearance of the business

It was now possible to make thousands of euros with a few pounds purchased at less than 200 km from the resale location which announced the complete end of the “belle époque” (“the good times”).

Because some residents benefit greatly from this market to the detriment of tribal farmers (the resale price was sometimes more than 100 times the price purchased), it didn’t  take long for tribal farmers to align with tariffs of the city. Why sell the fruit of their labour 100 times cheaper to someone who has only 2 hours of travel? It took only a short time before the notion of sharing was completely removed from the sharing of the plant and its mystical properties; the plant has become a currency for many.

At the same time, the French authorities are seriously starting to hunt cannabis down: there is only one road that leads to the capital, making checks easy and inevitable. This hunt for cannabis grown in rural and tribal areas will also contribute to higher market prices.

Officially, more than a million plants have been uprooted by gendarmes since  2000 and the population barely exceeds 250,000 people and more than 2 dry tons were seized, these figures are far from reality, because all seizures are not quantified and shared with  the general public.

The descent into Hell (The downward spiral)

In 2010, it was almost impossible to find good quality cannabis at less than 10 euros per gram. Some non-local communities (Wallisian, Vietnamese and others) are also beginning to perceive a burgeoning lucrative market. Consistent networks are organized and dismantled. The quality is no longer there because “time is money” and nobody wants to take the time to dry and clean the plants as it should.

We are now talking about bags, with a price close to those of coffee shops in Amsterdam for a poor quality: branches, leaves, seeds, mold, and sometimes even different insects. Melanesian youth sees cannabis as a source of rapid income. Expertise, patience and know-how leave room for early planting and early harvest, full of mineral fertilizers  and the use of plastic bags without drying or manicuring, greatly altering terpenes and trichromes.

It is now difficult to have a small  plant of cannabis in your garden without being robbed, even if it is not ready to be consumed, because it will represent a possible source of income for the thief. Why spend months to cultivate the land and waste energy when others can do it for you? Even in a tribal environment, theft begins to increase, leading sometimes to lethal shootings or stabbing attacks. Cannabis is now perceived by the Melanesian tribal community as a source of potential trouble, creating jealousy and conflict.

New Caledonia – Ile Loyaute

Self-production

In 2014-2015, we can see the appearance of the first growshops. The inhabitants  suffer exorbitant prices, for a plant that grows outdoors. Ten years before, nobody would have thought to grow this plant indoors, some people laughed even because plantations in Europe are made in hangars under lamps. Why pay an electricity bill to grow a plant ?

Since 2015, the number of growshops has multiplied. The culture of local strains has been abandoned to the benefit of strains from Europe and America. Some people continue tribal trips for “business”, but the trend is now towards self-sufficiency for regular consumers.

Even with perfect climatic conditions, and rich soil; it is best to grow indoors to avoid theft or reports. This of course implies an additional cost because the price of electricity is one of the most expensive in the world due to a monopoly of the energy market. In addition, air conditioning is required most of the year, which significantly increases the bill costs at the end of the month, and therefore the final price of the product. At least farmers are no longer dependent on a volatile market, climatic conditions and unjustifiable prices for, often,  poor quality.

Conclusion

For people who have lived in New Caledonia for over 30 years, the report is overwhelming.
The social culture of cannabis has changed completely. It has almost disappeared. This island, long regarded as the paradise of sinsemilia lovers, has given way to a market without control, and unjustified prices, sometimes ridiculously and outrageously expensive. A perpetual plant hunt by the authorities pushes these prices further up.Patience is no longer relevant, it is necessary now and without having to wait, without even appreciating the simple things that nature has to offer us.

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